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From the 1960s to the 1980s, Sweden was an affluent, egalitarian country envied around the world. Refugees were welcomed, even misfit young Englishmen could find a place there. Andrew Brown spent part of his childhood in Sweden during the 1960s. In the 1970s he married a Swedish woman and worked in a timber mill raising their small son. Fishing became his passion and his e From the 1960s to the 1980s, Sweden was an affluent, egalitarian country envied around the world. Refugees were welcomed, even misfit young Englishmen could find a place there. Andrew Brown spent part of his childhood in Sweden during the 1960s. In the 1970s he married a Swedish woman and worked in a timber mill raising their small son. Fishing became his passion and his escape. In the mid-1980s his marriage and the country fell apart. The Prime Minister was assassinated. The welfare system crumbled along with the industries that had supported it. 20 years later Andrew Brown traveled the length of Sweden in search of the country he had loved, and then hated, and now found he loved again.


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From the 1960s to the 1980s, Sweden was an affluent, egalitarian country envied around the world. Refugees were welcomed, even misfit young Englishmen could find a place there. Andrew Brown spent part of his childhood in Sweden during the 1960s. In the 1970s he married a Swedish woman and worked in a timber mill raising their small son. Fishing became his passion and his e From the 1960s to the 1980s, Sweden was an affluent, egalitarian country envied around the world. Refugees were welcomed, even misfit young Englishmen could find a place there. Andrew Brown spent part of his childhood in Sweden during the 1960s. In the 1970s he married a Swedish woman and worked in a timber mill raising their small son. Fishing became his passion and his escape. In the mid-1980s his marriage and the country fell apart. The Prime Minister was assassinated. The welfare system crumbled along with the industries that had supported it. 20 years later Andrew Brown traveled the length of Sweden in search of the country he had loved, and then hated, and now found he loved again.

30 review for Fishing in Utopia: Sweden and the Future that Disappeared

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    King Canute in the story allowed the flooding tide to splash about his ankles to show his courtiers the limits of power and authority. There are broader tides to human affairs that wash over kings and queens as much as commoners. Andrew Brown's book is a record of how those broader waves and currents washed over him as he charts the flow of his relationship to Sweden were he lived at various times during his life, married, and had children (view spoiler)[ or for clarities sake he fathered childr King Canute in the story allowed the flooding tide to splash about his ankles to show his courtiers the limits of power and authority. There are broader tides to human affairs that wash over kings and queens as much as commoners. Andrew Brown's book is a record of how those broader waves and currents washed over him as he charts the flow of his relationship to Sweden were he lived at various times during his life, married, and had children (view spoiler)[ or for clarities sake he fathered children (hide spoiler)] . The sub-text of the book is an elegy for an alternative life that the author could have lived and an alternative future that Sweden rejected as the country went through a political shift. He describes his life in Sweden from the 1960s to the 80s, how his life there came to an end, and his return to Britain. The political culture of 1980s Britain contrasts with his former life in Sweden and heralds the direction in which Sweden was moving. His ambivalent feelings towards those political and economic changes in Sweden and the country's liberalisation towards an Anglo-Saxon model comes across as a negative development despite the inward looking, even claustrophobic, Swedish small town life that he described as having been his experience of Sweden. All of this is interspersed with fishing. There is something striking about his descriptions of putting fresh caught fish on the table as his contribution towards the housekeeping. The fishing tales show both his sense of connection to lakes and forests but also the absence of connection with family. It proves easier for him to reel a fish in on a line than to maintain the fine cords of family relationships. Though in truth even if like me you're not an angler there is more carping about politics than politicking about fishing in this book. Utopia is discovered and then observed by the author to drift further and further away from him as the memoir progresses, he doesn't get as far as to describe how Swedish educational reforms then influenced the policy of free schools in the UK where he made his home, but where the fishing does not come close to the find of primeval experience he has in Sweden.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Helen Farrell

    Read this on the back of Wallander and the Stieg Larsson books, wanting to know more about Sweden. It's interesting and quite informative, but less about the country than about the rather troubled author. A book that is more thought provoking than expected, but the author ultimately is too introverted to provide great insights into Sweden. But worth a read. Read this on the back of Wallander and the Stieg Larsson books, wanting to know more about Sweden. It's interesting and quite informative, but less about the country than about the rather troubled author. A book that is more thought provoking than expected, but the author ultimately is too introverted to provide great insights into Sweden. But worth a read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    I’ve always regarded a passion for fishing as something that periodically afflicts men once they hit middle age, like impotence. Although fishing plays a large part ('I had even watched the broad agricultural reservoirs of the English Midlands appear in Swedish fishing magazines as exotic and desirable destinations'), this book is about much more than angling. Before reading my knowledge of Sweden and its citizens was limited. They gave the world ABBA, The Cardigans, Ace of Base and, of course, R I’ve always regarded a passion for fishing as something that periodically afflicts men once they hit middle age, like impotence. Although fishing plays a large part ('I had even watched the broad agricultural reservoirs of the English Midlands appear in Swedish fishing magazines as exotic and desirable destinations'), this book is about much more than angling. Before reading my knowledge of Sweden and its citizens was limited. They gave the world ABBA, The Cardigans, Ace of Base and, of course, Roxette; it's cold there; all the women are beautiful blondes, and it's the only nation on earth where promising to put up taxes wins votes. The rate of income tax that Swedes pay would stun a Sun columnist at ten paces. But it funded arguably the most successful welfare state in the world. Oddly, it stemmed more from demographics than Socialism. Few Swedes of the time were more than three generations away from subsistence farming. It was obvious that, like heavy drinking, personal greed and ambition was bad for the individual and for society. Affordable childcare became so common it became unremarkable; the Social Democratic Party remained in government for over forty years (albeit sometimes in coalition). Explaining how it all went to toss, of course, is one of Brown's sadder duties. By the late 80s the shipyard closure preceded a financial crisis. Under the newly elected government, benefits were cleaved, foreigners demonised, violent crime rose, and everything not nailed down was privatised: Nordic Thatcherism. Hardly a bundle of laughs, it's true. But perhaps sadness cleanses in a way facile optimism does not. And the earth abideth forever: 'Mornings by the lake, the whole world felt enamelled in perfection. The water would absolutely still, and the mist would trap the metallic smell of the water and the pungency of the reeds. Slowly the mist would curl away, leaving nothing but clarity.' That things decline and fall is a fact that good authors make beautiful. Brown has.

  4. 4 out of 5

    John

    Author succeeded in his objective of portraying Sweden then and now. I didn't have much of an issue with using fishing as a framework for the material. However, overall didn't hold my interest as much as expected. Author succeeded in his objective of portraying Sweden then and now. I didn't have much of an issue with using fishing as a framework for the material. However, overall didn't hold my interest as much as expected.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Megan Jones

    Looking for an outsider's opinion on a country I will soon visit intrigued me. Well, beyond the very detailed descriptions of the beautiful landscapes, I took little else from this book. I certainly don't share the author's passion for fishing nor did his writing captivate me enough to continue reading after about half way through the book. He briefly describes Swedish history and some cultural aspects of the people of Sweden which might help in my travels but I found nothing else even slightly Looking for an outsider's opinion on a country I will soon visit intrigued me. Well, beyond the very detailed descriptions of the beautiful landscapes, I took little else from this book. I certainly don't share the author's passion for fishing nor did his writing captivate me enough to continue reading after about half way through the book. He briefly describes Swedish history and some cultural aspects of the people of Sweden which might help in my travels but I found nothing else even slightly interesting. The plot is weak and the writing is very reportive with an absence of voice. I can't bring myself to waste the time finishing this one.

  6. 5 out of 5

    David

    I've thought about moving to Sweden several times since Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979, but since I can't speak the language and learning it wasn't going to happen for me, the idea has remained a wistful fantasy. There was a Swedish librarian working in Nyeri , Kenya as part of an aid programme, when I was teaching at a rural school nearby in the fateful year of 1979.That was the beginning of the long arc of the ascendancy of neo-liberalism in politics and economics which for a brief mom I've thought about moving to Sweden several times since Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979, but since I can't speak the language and learning it wasn't going to happen for me, the idea has remained a wistful fantasy. There was a Swedish librarian working in Nyeri , Kenya as part of an aid programme, when I was teaching at a rural school nearby in the fateful year of 1979.That was the beginning of the long arc of the ascendancy of neo-liberalism in politics and economics which for a brief moment of naivety I thought might have ended in 1997 with the return of a Labour government but only finally crashed to the ground last year with the near-collapse of the global financial system. The Swedish librarian in Nyeri was fully-funded by her government on a Swedish salary and pension whilst my colleagues and other European and American aid workers we knew in the area were either church-sponsored or in volunteer schemes like Peace Corps, where the rewards were more of an intrinsic nature. Our Swedish friend was in a different league of serious and professional development aid, and for me her presence confirmed the superiority of Sweden's altruistic commitment to world development by comparison with the lacklustre and ultimately self-interested efforts of the British government. I've never managed to visit Sweden. An Anglican vicar with three children has other spending priorities, and the high prices were a serious deterrent. In 1990 I was drawn sufficiently strongly by the attraction of Scandinavia in general however to acquiesce willing to family clamour to holiday in Denmark which was quite local as were living in Essex at the time. Legoland was the lure for the children's sake -this was before it appeared in Windsor - and cruising on Scandinavian Seaways overnight was the highlight for us the parents. It offered a far better experience than a cross-channel ferry in terms of the facilities for children and not least important the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet of fish, cheeses, egg and cold meats and fresh bread in several varieties of grain. Our first visit was for four nights only, two of them afloat, staying on a Danish farm, eating with the other guests and our hosts around the family table. For all it's brevity it was a truly refreshing holiday and when we returned home we felt like we'd been away for some weeks rather than an extended weekend. On our second visit to Scandinavia - though Denmark again - a year or two later, driving a Swedish Volvo by this time, we hired bicycles and rode up one of the long flat Danish versions of a fjord to see the remains of a Viking burial mound. Scandinavian street furniture with its quality and safety conscious design;and the welcome given to children in cafes and restaurants children re-confirmed our appreciation of the superiority of the social and political culture in Scandinavia. It exposed for us the poverty of the public squalor/private wealth culture that had grown up in Thatcher's Britain and blighted our years of having and raising young children on a limited income, as with each succeeding Thatcher-led government another mainstay of welfare security was removed. So it was with immediate interest that I landed on Andrew Brown's new book when I spotted it on display in Blackwell at Oxford. Here is an Englishman who actually did move to Sweden, learned the language and lived there as if that was to be his life's future, marrying a Swedish woman and having a child there. But disillusioned both with his family life and with the country as its flaws became more evident and it too began to succumb to the over-whelming force of neo-liberal dogma, Brown left for home, divorced his wife, and developed a career as a journalist and writer. The book recounts also his return journeys to Sweden in more recent years and his rediscovery of a country he never really stopped loving. It is also a book about fishing. Brown is passionate about this. This is the main drawback of the book for me. If you are interested in fishing there's probably too much about Swedish politics in it for you, and vice versa. It is steeped in melancholy. Feelings of loss are strongly conveyed, from the subtitle onwards. But it is a compelling and lyrical book, well worth reading.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nat

    The best line in the book is the description of cosmopolitan Stockholm as the place that Tony Blair wished he was Prime Minister of. Lots of descriptions of fishing and anomie. Since I don't fish, and don't speak Swedish, this gives me some idea of what will be left over for me when I move to Sweden next year. The best line in the book is the description of cosmopolitan Stockholm as the place that Tony Blair wished he was Prime Minister of. Lots of descriptions of fishing and anomie. Since I don't fish, and don't speak Swedish, this gives me some idea of what will be left over for me when I move to Sweden next year.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    Had to give up on this, although I wanted to read some Swedish travel writing, think that a fishing book was pushing it a bit!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Monica

    I didn't actually know what to expect from this book, but for a large part, it was a pleasant surprise. Being Swedish, and having spent most of my life in the area around Gothenburg, the places described (Uddevalla, Lilla Edet, Nödinge and so forth) are very familiar - and I share much of Brown's descriptions of Sweden's transformation from an idealist to a realist country with a new set of problems to tackle. The one thing I did not appreciate were the tedious passages about fish, fishing and f I didn't actually know what to expect from this book, but for a large part, it was a pleasant surprise. Being Swedish, and having spent most of my life in the area around Gothenburg, the places described (Uddevalla, Lilla Edet, Nödinge and so forth) are very familiar - and I share much of Brown's descriptions of Sweden's transformation from an idealist to a realist country with a new set of problems to tackle. The one thing I did not appreciate were the tedious passages about fish, fishing and fishing gear! Had Brown omitted (or at least condensed) all these sections, I would have rated the book with 4 stars!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. What a dry read; maybe not so many laughs to be had with Andrew Brown

  11. 5 out of 5

    Justin Labelle

    Fishing in Utopia is a wonderfully perceptive book about both Swedish culture and life in Sweden. As an Ex-pat living in Sweden, I've had multiple discussions with Swedish friends and co-workers as to what, from a Canadian point of view, could be deemed unique or peculiar Swedish behaviour and interests. Valborg (Seasonal celebration with a phallic cross) , kraftskiva (crayfish party), Alcohol and Binge culture, Midsommar, Labour Day and the unusual connections Grocery stores have to certain polit Fishing in Utopia is a wonderfully perceptive book about both Swedish culture and life in Sweden. As an Ex-pat living in Sweden, I've had multiple discussions with Swedish friends and co-workers as to what, from a Canadian point of view, could be deemed unique or peculiar Swedish behaviour and interests. Valborg (Seasonal celebration with a phallic cross) , kraftskiva (crayfish party), Alcohol and Binge culture, Midsommar, Labour Day and the unusual connections Grocery stores have to certain political views or 'immigrant' status are but a few things discussed anecdotally or at length in the book. -Side note, when I first started working as a teacher in Sweden, one of my students warned me that I shouldn't trust what was being said, because they were the 'kind of people' who shop at Lidl, not ICA... While the novel doesn't necessarily come to any large insight as to how to live a life, or satori, it does try to present an honest picture of a man searching for recognition and to a lesser extent fame. Though he finds both in small increments, he also realizes that the quiet life, a life of 'lagom', can be just as fulfilling given the right context or State... Overall, the novel can be understood as a sort of lighthearted take on the whole 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' genre of books. In closing, Brown manages to write a book that astutely presents scenarios that allow for physical and psychological insights into what is, for many, a foreign culture and way of living. Quotes: -I was ready, when I arrived in Sweden, for a wholly new life. In England, I had comprehensively failed the expectations of my parents, and of at least some of my teachers. Then I had failed at doing good, Perhaps I could now try just being good. -There were competent people who liked my jokes, and who shared my dislocation from the universe. The magazine did not seem at home anywhere in the world, and i liked that. It guaranteed the safety of perpetual exile. -The old house came to seem to me a kind of ideal Sweden. The order that it contained was precious and carefully maintained without being prissy. Even the shortest nights were always dark so far south, and when it was too dark to fish, we would come inside and drink whiskey and talk almost until the light returned. After the icy relentless grind of winter, all the extravagance of spring was distilled into the pleasure of the moments when I could slip away from the warm, lit circle of friendship for a moment, and go out to stand on the porch at midnight, half drunk and pee into a fragrant lilac bush. No one was ever too drunk or too wild to take off his shoes on the porch, and in the mornings, we would spend an hour dusting then sweeping away the evidence of the last night's debauch. -His wife believed there were only two sort of people in the world, authors and idiots; and this was also what I believed -Ambition was an essential part of my unhappiness -Nothing disturbed the water; not even the memory of yearning. -For a long time I had been home in exile, not I couldn't get back. -Obviously, I wanted to be a person at the hub, and not on the periphery; one of the disposers of the world and not one of the disposables. But nor that I had been both, this division didn't seem desirable to me, merely inevitable. I had mocked Sweden for failing to live up to its own ideals, but I had always supposed these were ideals that everyone shared. I had not considered the possibility that some people could want a less equal society. I assumed that most people thought like I did, that inequality grew naturally out of human nature and was something to be overcome so far as possible. No one in Sweden, I thought, would have treated anyone quite as savagely as poor old Honeyford was treated; or, if they had, they would have bit a little bit ashamed, and not thought of themselves as especially clever for it. -In the early years of the twentieth century, children who had to walk long distances to school would do so with their coats turned inside out to ward off the trolls.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Daniele

    Interesting book. The author is a British journalist who lived, worked and married in Sweden in the 70s. I didn't know much about Sweden, and especially about the spirit and dreams of its Olof Palme's years. The author leads us along his personal path, which included many different jobs before finding his way as an author for the magazine The Spectator, and becoming its correspondent in Sweden. He tells us about his family life and his relationship, which turns grey with time. He also describes Interesting book. The author is a British journalist who lived, worked and married in Sweden in the 70s. I didn't know much about Sweden, and especially about the spirit and dreams of its Olof Palme's years. The author leads us along his personal path, which included many different jobs before finding his way as an author for the magazine The Spectator, and becoming its correspondent in Sweden. He tells us about his family life and his relationship, which turns grey with time. He also describes his fishing expeditions throughout the country, and some descriptions of the Swedish nature are very fascinating, as well some details on the fishing tackle and its developments along the years. He eventually left Sweden, remarried in the UK, and came back to Sweden many years later. The last part of the book, infused with nostalgia and disillusionment, is the story of his journey back through Sweden, and the gradual recognition of how the Country he once knew changed over the decades. And, in his view, not always in a good way! For example, the Author conveys very clearly the idea that the way Sweden has approached immigration and integration (of a significant number of immigrants entering the country on various humanitarian reasons) did not always work as expected. He suggests that the Swedish values of equality and egalitarianism were not fully helpful in implementing integration in the Swedish society. In these years of public debate on immigration policies and identity, this book adds some interesting, although sad, perspectives of the future. This book has literary highs and lows, and I didn't always liked the narration and its structure. I anyway found it enticing in its description of Sweden, and it certainly opened a window on that society, for me, hence I do recommend it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mervyn S Whyte

    A brilliant book (The Independent on Sunday). No. Extraordinary (New Statesmen). No. As perceptive as Bill Bryson and often just as funny (Spectator). No, and no. One doesn't wish to be too unkind to Andrew Brown. This is a well-written book. I just didn't find it that interesting. Usually I can rattle through a 250 page book in a couple of days. But this took me nearly a whole week. I only finished it because I don't like given up on a book when I've started it. My heart really sank when Brown A brilliant book (The Independent on Sunday). No. Extraordinary (New Statesmen). No. As perceptive as Bill Bryson and often just as funny (Spectator). No, and no. One doesn't wish to be too unkind to Andrew Brown. This is a well-written book. I just didn't find it that interesting. Usually I can rattle through a 250 page book in a couple of days. But this took me nearly a whole week. I only finished it because I don't like given up on a book when I've started it. My heart really sank when Brown admitted to liking killing things. I don't know if this was an admirable bit of candour on his part, or an attempt to project some Hemingway-esque machismo into his persona, but for me if fell completely flat. But then I'm against all blood sports. Including fishing. So Brown could quite rightly say this isn't a book for me. And it isn't.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Hans Brienesse

    I found this a difficult read being neither a book on fishing nor really a good look back or forward on Sweden. More I think an in depth inward looking treatise on the author's own perception of self and his place in the world. But then it was like a gardening book; vegetables, vegetables, vegetables, and suddenly a burst of spring flowers before sliding back to it's grey old self. There are some marvellous anecdotes and observations which could have been presented a little differently. A good e I found this a difficult read being neither a book on fishing nor really a good look back or forward on Sweden. More I think an in depth inward looking treatise on the author's own perception of self and his place in the world. But then it was like a gardening book; vegetables, vegetables, vegetables, and suddenly a burst of spring flowers before sliding back to it's grey old self. There are some marvellous anecdotes and observations which could have been presented a little differently. A good enough read but misleading in both the title and the precis.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Christian

    I enjoyed it for the cultural and historical perspective of Sweden through those formative decades and how I could identify with it as an expat in Sweden now. I also enjoyed his earnest passion for the craft and contest of fishing despite not being a fisherman myself. For that part, the book offered an escape for both he an I. I think however that if you do not both love the outdoors and share the experience of immersing yourself in a foreign culture, it may be a difficult story to relate to.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Fanny Lemdal

    I appreciated this book for its beautiful way to describe the Swedish nature and how he captures a feeling of the society that is pretty hard to explain. It was interesting for me, as my mother moved to Sweden at the same time as Brown and it gave me the feeling of understanding some of the things she has experienced.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Swjohnson

    Despite its pessimistic subtitle, I found British expat Andrew Brown's memoir "Fishing in Utopia: Sweden and the Future that Disappeared" to be a solid meditation on contemporary Sweden that never truly exposes a dark underside. It's less cynical in tone than Michael Booth's similarly-themed "The Almost Nearly Perfect People" and also sidesteps the literary tropes of Nordic noir, which assume that Scandinavia is a cultural idyll with a dark heart. Brown's issues with his adopted homeland are mos Despite its pessimistic subtitle, I found British expat Andrew Brown's memoir "Fishing in Utopia: Sweden and the Future that Disappeared" to be a solid meditation on contemporary Sweden that never truly exposes a dark underside. It's less cynical in tone than Michael Booth's similarly-themed "The Almost Nearly Perfect People" and also sidesteps the literary tropes of Nordic noir, which assume that Scandinavia is a cultural idyll with a dark heart. Brown's issues with his adopted homeland are mostly routine, earthbound disappointments exposed by his near total-immersion in a new culture: conformism, insularity, failure to deliver on the Utopian social ideals of the 1970s, and blindness to international opinion. "Fishing in Utopia" is a thematic hybrid: part lyrical reflection, part conventional autobiography, part social commentary. It's most effective when those components align, allowing Brown to illustrate social observations through experience, such as his time working in a small rural factory in the 1970s. It's a place where he encounters Sweden's vast housing construction program, as well as co-workers who both confirm and reject Swedish stereotypes. Political and social ideas are more varied than expected, with ascetic worldviews and lingering strains of conservatism running against the progressive, futuristic vision of the Social Democrats. Lyrical, overlong reflections on fishing (a well-worn thematic hook) are best appreciated in limited doses, and offer a somewhat cliched metaphor for nature-bound individualism in the face of conformity.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Charu Uppal

    Parts of it are so deep and so informative/educative about Sweden. Those who know Sweden, will surely become nostalgic at points. I learnt some about Fishing and much about Swedish countryside. But most about (even though it was only a small section of the book) about how conservative Sweden was at one point--unimaginable. Good book, especially for those who are familiar with Sweden

  19. 4 out of 5

    Taavi Tuisk

    What Sweden is and how it changed from 70s to 00s: social democracy to individualism. Smells, wilderness, lakes, concrete boxes of central Stockholm, pizza places run by Kurdish families in every town.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Naeem

    Could not figure out what was the point in writing this book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Steffes-Tuttle

    An interesting perspective on Sweden.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sofia

    A few interesting parts about Sweden and swedish life. The rest strongly not interesting.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tantalus

    A captivating and spellbinding tale of a man's journey in one of the countries I love most. I picked up this little gem while waiting at Göteborg airport at the end of my exchange in 2014. I had tears in my eyes, I didn't want to leave. I have visited again numerous times, and I will keep visiting, that much I know. I don't know much about fishing, but I now wish to learn. And I will definitely be buying my own stüga. I only wish that, one day, I will be able to write my own tale set in Sweden. A captivating and spellbinding tale of a man's journey in one of the countries I love most. I picked up this little gem while waiting at Göteborg airport at the end of my exchange in 2014. I had tears in my eyes, I didn't want to leave. I have visited again numerous times, and I will keep visiting, that much I know. I don't know much about fishing, but I now wish to learn. And I will definitely be buying my own stüga. I only wish that, one day, I will be able to write my own tale set in Sweden. This book has made me yearn for the Sweden of old and a quieter, cleaner, kinder lifestyle.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kay

    Sometimes the tell-tale sign of whether or not I enjoyed a book is the likelihood of reading it again. This book will remain on my bookshelf, never to be returned to. Read it only if you're interested in both Sweden and fishing. I have knowledge of Swedish culture, gained through weeks spent in the country, long talks with natives, and now living here myself. The book mentioned numerous places I recognized and have knowledge of - places I have visited or now live in. It also brought new places in Sometimes the tell-tale sign of whether or not I enjoyed a book is the likelihood of reading it again. This book will remain on my bookshelf, never to be returned to. Read it only if you're interested in both Sweden and fishing. I have knowledge of Swedish culture, gained through weeks spent in the country, long talks with natives, and now living here myself. The book mentioned numerous places I recognized and have knowledge of - places I have visited or now live in. It also brought new places into my mind, but none of which I have any desire to see or visit. The story was mostly autobiographical and, quite honestly, dull to read. Brown did, at times, have a sentimental and clear way of describing his surroundings, but his thoughts often jumped from theme to theme so quickly and disorderly that any real significance was lost. Those descriptive paragraphs of Swedish nature always led into fishing expeditions I couldn't care less about. There were distinct topics in which he touched upon – life in the Lapland, immigration and racism, “Swedishness” - that I did find interesting, though all things I am already aware of. If the book had been filled with more of those themes, I think I would have enjoyed it much more.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Vildan Y.

    have u ever felt the fate,,, or how we are affected? subconsciously? say, you are watchin a film and u have heard a place u never encountered before, then...you carry on readin ur bed-side book catchin the glimpse of the place u have heard during the movie.... is that called inter-texuality? fate? conscios? After watchin the third chapter of Snow Queen, I took my book at hand aaand here is Lapland where Andrew goes after all these years he spent with his ex-wife...It is a recluse world in Sweden h have u ever felt the fate,,, or how we are affected? subconsciously? say, you are watchin a film and u have heard a place u never encountered before, then...you carry on readin ur bed-side book catchin the glimpse of the place u have heard during the movie.... is that called inter-texuality? fate? conscios? After watchin the third chapter of Snow Queen, I took my book at hand aaand here is Lapland where Andrew goes after all these years he spent with his ex-wife...It is a recluse world in Sweden he uses as to be away from any surroundin which would disturb his peace... Lapland...the place Queen of snow lived, the place Andrew had the stomacke to face his past with all its pros and cons...hard to get used to the place...able to hear ur own footsteps... then what about turnin back to disaster (the world, itsel)...even the noice comin from a taxi hurts the ear... even Lapland was surrounded by the capitalist circle...In that point my lovely America enters into the scene... then the atmosphere becomes broader enough to accept murders, rapes...no way for laws which dont have punishment but despice by society...

  26. 4 out of 5

    Charles Cobine

    This memoir traces the story of an Englishman who marries a Swedish woman and settles in Sweden in the late seventies and early eighties, as the country is in the process of transforming itself from a small, secure, peaceful country known for its social welfare tradition to an increasingly capitalistic, externally influenced, information-age economy. Though I do not share the author's interest in fishing, the descriptions of Swedish life in the then of the 1980s and the 2000s depict a special pl This memoir traces the story of an Englishman who marries a Swedish woman and settles in Sweden in the late seventies and early eighties, as the country is in the process of transforming itself from a small, secure, peaceful country known for its social welfare tradition to an increasingly capitalistic, externally influenced, information-age economy. Though I do not share the author's interest in fishing, the descriptions of Swedish life in the then of the 1980s and the 2000s depict a special place and time, with abundant references to the role of nature in Scandinavian life--and then, some hand-wringing over growth of social inequity. Here there are some astute observations. As the author describes today's Sweden and unassimilated immigrants, however, there are some inflections of English-born cultural conservatism not dissimilar to the same voices who perhaps would have expressed support of Brexit. My opinion is that these are simply new realities anywhere in Northern Europe, rather than a derailing of the utopia coinciding with the years of the author's young married life. Still, it's a fascinating account for anyone interested in modern Scandinavia.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Colin

    Anyone who has read Henning Mankell's Wallander novels will be aware that Sweden in the 1990s and the early 2000s was a country ill at ease with itself. Mankell himself subtitled the series 'novels of the Swedish anxiety'. Andrew Brown's excellent study of Sweden since the 1970s is a fascinating introduction to the tensions at the heart of this apparently perfect society. Brown's book works particularly well because he is part insider, part disinterested observer. He married a Swedish woman in t Anyone who has read Henning Mankell's Wallander novels will be aware that Sweden in the 1990s and the early 2000s was a country ill at ease with itself. Mankell himself subtitled the series 'novels of the Swedish anxiety'. Andrew Brown's excellent study of Sweden since the 1970s is a fascinating introduction to the tensions at the heart of this apparently perfect society. Brown's book works particularly well because he is part insider, part disinterested observer. He married a Swedish woman in the seventies, and lived and worked there for a number of years, learning to speak the language in the process. When his marriage fell apart, he returned to England, but found that he couldn't keep away from Sweden for too long. He returns as a journalist, seeking out old haunts and discovering new corners of this endlessly engaging society. What emerges is a country where the old certainties have suddenly evaporated - the murder of Olof Palme on a Stockholm street in 1986 is a clear turning point - and which is struggling to find its new identity.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Alison

    Lovely book. Thought-provoking and quite melancholy, a reflecion on paths not taken(the author's own; the Swedish social democratic future). More explicit reflection on the former would have been welcome, especially the young Brown reacting against his parents' expectations, and ultimately his desire for a life which took him back to England. But the latter was good: the book is ostensibly an account of cultural and political change in Sweden since the Palme years, and makes uncomfortable readin Lovely book. Thought-provoking and quite melancholy, a reflecion on paths not taken(the author's own; the Swedish social democratic future). More explicit reflection on the former would have been welcome, especially the young Brown reacting against his parents' expectations, and ultimately his desire for a life which took him back to England. But the latter was good: the book is ostensibly an account of cultural and political change in Sweden since the Palme years, and makes uncomfortable reading at times. It is told through the lens of the author's love of the landscape and fishing. On the vast open space and wilderness, the writing is simply beautiful. I even enjoyed the bits about fishing. It rekindled my yearning for lakes and pine forests and little wooden summer houses and that very unique style of Swedish cosiness, and I didn't want it to end.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    I have to say, fishing is not that interesting to me. Thus, although this book was well-written, I found parts of it a little bit of a drag. Nonetheless, the discussion of how Swedish society and culture evolved over time was very good. The author does not overgeneralise from his own experience, which I appreciated. He recounts his life in Sweden and later visits to it lucidly and with a pleasant sense of wonder. Britain is only referred to briefly as a point of comparison, and does not come off I have to say, fishing is not that interesting to me. Thus, although this book was well-written, I found parts of it a little bit of a drag. Nonetheless, the discussion of how Swedish society and culture evolved over time was very good. The author does not overgeneralise from his own experience, which I appreciated. He recounts his life in Sweden and later visits to it lucidly and with a pleasant sense of wonder. Britain is only referred to briefly as a point of comparison, and does not come off well. I think the title is rather misleading, as the word utopia appears nowhere in the text and there is no consideration of whether Swedish politics is or was utopian in nature. The book includes some thoughtful discussion of socialist policies and their implications in Sweden, though. It was worth reading, but I still don’t understand the appeal of fishing.

  30. 4 out of 5

    PRINCESS

    Why I don’t believe people who say they loathe Islam but not Muslims. It is psychologically unnatural to claim that you hate an ideology without hating the people in whose lives it is expressed It is a trope among people who loathe and fear Islam that their fear and loathing has nothing in common with racism because Islam is not a race, the implication being that hating Muslims is rational and wise whereas hating black people is deeply irrational and stupid. - Andrew Brown a South African novelis Why I don’t believe people who say they loathe Islam but not Muslims. It is psychologically unnatural to claim that you hate an ideology without hating the people in whose lives it is expressed It is a trope among people who loathe and fear Islam that their fear and loathing has nothing in common with racism because Islam is not a race, the implication being that hating Muslims is rational and wise whereas hating black people is deeply irrational and stupid. - Andrew Brown a South African novelist, activist and advocate. Since that day that I read this note, I respected Andrew Brown, at least he is honest and said his view of point, n one else did even united nation who always talks about human’s right! Salute to this guy

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